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Government & Politics

Kansas senator compares Planned Parenthood to Nazi concentration camp

By Hunter Woodall

hwoodall@kcstar.com

March 13, 2017 11:05 AM

UPDATED March 13, 2017 07:22 PM

TOPEKA

A Kansas state senator compared Planned Parenthood to a Nazi concentration camp after being told that a donation to the organization had been made in his name.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican, wrote to Planned Parenthood last week, saying “shame on anyone that would attempt to blacken my name in this manner.”

“This as bad, or worse, as having one’s name associated with Dachau,” he wrote in the letter.

Dachau was the first regular concentration camp created by the Nazis, as detailed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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In an interview Monday, Fitzgerald stood by his comparison and the letter he sent to Planned Parenthood.

“It was either send them that or ignore it,” Fitzgerald said. “I figured, I don’t want my name associated as a donation to Planned Parenthood, in my name, to go on undenounced by me.”

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He called the donation and ensuing letter telling him about the donation “harassment” and “political theater.”

“I think the Nazis ought to be incensed by the comparison,” Fitzgerald said.

The letter became public last week after the twitter account @PPGreatPlainsKS tweeted out a photo of it.

Ali Weinel, who lives in Prairie Village, said she made the original $25 donation to Planned Parenthood in Fitzgerald’s name.

Weinel said she had emailed Fitzgerald over concerns she had about abortion legislation he had sponsored this session. She made the donation after becoming frustrated with the senator’s responses.

“I didn’t go into this out of spite,” she said. “I just was so angry and knew that the only way I could be less angry was if I made a difference. So that’s what I did.”

Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the letter has started a domino effect of other people making donations to Planned Parenthood in Fitzgerald’s name.

“It’s this kind of inflammatory language that adds to the shame and stigma of safe legal abortion,” Lee-Gilmore said. “The state of Kansas has much bigger issues to be dealing with, and this is just an unacceptable attack on women’s right to choose.”

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called Fitzgerald’s comments disturbing.

“He should be ashamed,” Richards said in a phone call. “It’s this kind of inflammatory language that condones the type of behavior we see sometimes outside of women’s health centers...It’s really disturbing to me that this kind of rhetoric and language is considered acceptable.”

Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, called Fitzgerald’s remarks offensive.

“It’s astonishing to me that an elected official in Kansas could make such a comparison,” Rieber said.  

Asked Monday if he was saying Planned Parenthood was worse than the Nazis, Fitzgerald said, “Oh, yeah.”

“What I’m saying is, they’re both exterminating innocent human life,” Fitzgerald said.

He then went on to ask how someone would feel if a similar donation were made to the Ku Klux Klan.

“How about if I make a donation in your name to the Ku Klux Klan and publish it?” Fitzgerald said after being asked about the letter. “..If somebody made a donation to the Ku Klux Klan in your name and published it, how would you feel? What would you do? How would you react? Wouldn’t it be controversial for you to deny that or to denounce that in the strongest possible terms? It’s pretty controversial, don’t you think?”

The Star’s Bryan Lowry contributed to this report.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw